A Well-Lit Path: A Blog from Westtown School

6 Painless Ways to Stop Controlling Your Teen

Posted by Linda Rosenberg McGuire on January 24, 2017

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Some parents find it downright liberating when their teenagers become increasingly
teen 2.jpgindependent. Others find it unsettling, even threatening. Parents who crave control of their teenager often discover that allowing their teens to experience the world on their own is terrifying. However, developmentally, it is important to slowly hand over control of your teen’s life…to your teen.
You will always be their parent, but they are looking for - and needing -you to manage less of their day-to-day lives.

Here are six ways to give both you and your teenager practice shifting the locus of control from parent to teen:

  • Have them take over any and all paperwork involved with employment and the DMV. This sort of busy work will always be in their lives so the sooner they begin to master it the better. Money and driving are good motivators.

  • Stop being their wake-up service and insist they use an alarm, even two of three, to get up in the morning. Many parents find that their teenagers have less trouble getting up if there is no parent their to nag them.

  • Allow your teenager to not only use public transportation, but to figure it out on their own. It is much easier than it used to be thanks to the Internet, but is still may require some problem-solving skills, ingenuity, and perhaps a bit of map reading if using a subway system.

  • Don’t text them while they are at school. That is a time for them to be appropriately independent. Furthermore, teachers find it frustrating when students excuse their use of the phone by saying something like, “It’s my mom." If it an emergency, call the school office and speak with an administrator. If not, let them experience their school day without you.

  • Say yes. Obviously, there are still questions that deserve a no answer. But try to say yes when your teen is asking to do something that requires independence and a bit of freedom.

  • Teach them life skills like cooking and laundry and then create opportunities for them to practice frequently.

  • Leave them alone in the house. Perhaps even for a weekend. I know, I know, everyone tells you not to leave teens alone for fear a party will erupt in your absence. But, not every teen is one step away from hosting a keg party. Additionally, you can always inform your neighbors and/or family and friends in the area just to make sure someone has an eye on the house. Teens can benefit from practicing their newly acquired life skills without being observed, cajoled, or corrected.

Have no fear, your teenager still needs you desperately, but not to do for them what they can and should do for themselves.  Instead, they need you to teach them how to do life on their own, and the best way to do this is to give them opportunities to get out from under your watchful eye, and slowly, and maybe imperfectly, take on more responsibility for their own lives.


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Topics: Raising Resilient, Healthy Teens, Inspiring the Best in Kids

Linda Rosenberg McGuire

Written by Linda Rosenberg McGuire

Linda Rosenberg McGuire was the Dean of Students at Westtown School from 2011 until 2018. She is a parenting coach, consultant, speaker, and avid writer, providing insight, support, and education for parents and teachers who live and work with teenagers. She works with schools to inspire and reinvigorate their faculty to work successfully with even the most challenging students. Linda is passionate about helping parents develop more effective relationships with their teenagers, stressing the importance of listening, limit-setting, and building competence, character, and independence. Linda has 30 years of experience working with children, most of that time focused on parent-teen relationships. Linda began her career as a caseworker and trip leader for teens-at-risk, leading to work as a community mental health therapist and a school-based counselor. For the past 12 years Linda has been employed in independent school administration, working with teenagers, parents, and faculty as a program director and a dean.Linda received her BA from Bowdoin College, her MSW from the University of New England, and her Master of Organizational Leadership from Nichols College.